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'Giving blood now is imperative' | Coronavirus threatens San Antonio's blood supply

"There is no substitute for blood. One day, you or your family member or your friend will need blood to save your life."

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio is going to need an increase in blood donations to prepare for the effects of coronavirus.

San Antonio health and city officials held a news conference Saturday morning to talk about the need to build a blood donation stockpile.

The city has a blood shortage now, and medical professionals are relying on the community to save lives by donating.

"As a community, we can't let this happen. We are currently not capable of helping other parts of Texas or the U.S.," said Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer for the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

Two locations normally closed on Sundays will be open on March 14 to help mitigate the critical need for blood: The Shavano Donor Room, located off North Loop 1604, will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., while the New Braunfels facility, located off North Business I-35, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other locations and hours can be found here. 

Mayor Ron Nirenberg encouraged people to donate blood amid the city's public health emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Coronavirus is not transmitted through the bloodstream. People walking in will be screened," he said. "This is a safe process. There are few better ways to help your fellow neighbor than by giving blood."

"If you have canceled (a blood donation appointment), please consider rescheduling. We need to do this A-S-A-P," he said.

Blood donation is now an essential city function as the community works through the public health emergency.

"We are in a good position to prevent the worst of this outbreak," Nirenberg said.

"Donating blood is safe," said Dr. Samantha Gomez, assistant director for the blood center. "We're sanitizing donor beds and screening rooms following donations."

She also said temperatures of donors and employees are being checked. It is imperative that the community steps up and donates blood. 

Authorities said donors are not at risk of getting coronavirus from donating blood. There have been no reports of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19.

About 50 organizations have canceled giving blood within the past three days. Waltman said the blood center is in short supply of type O-negative, which is the universal donor. The center has just 1 1/2 days worth available as of Saturday.

"This is a different situation than we have experienced in the past. This is a national crisis," Waltman said. "Giving blood now is imperative as we see the bloom of the virus throughout the U.S."

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